New Jersey. Summer. Wistful sigh.

The current issue of New York magazine includes a guide to beaches, and I was somewhat shocked that they deigned to include beaches in New Jersey. There was a semi-respectful nod to some great places to visit but of course they couldn’t help themselves and had to add this kind of commentary:

You need not wait for the results from the Census to know one thing: There are more colorful characters per capita in New Jersey than in any other state in the nation. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a freakin’ Snooki.

It’s a popular Garden State image and not inaccurate. But like big bellies and Wisconsin, it’s only one slice of the pizza pie.

I don’t recall any characters from my days on the Jersey Shore. I recall family times. We spent two weeks every summer on Long Beach Island, from the time I was a toddler. I collected shells. I took my towel and book to the beach and read for hours. I dug moats for sand castles. I swam in the ocean. And swam and swam and swam. As time went on I helped my nieces collect shells (though there were fewer by then) and dig sand-castle moats. Two of those nieces now have a family beach cottage of their own, north of L.B.I. in a spot where the beach is white and wide.

Eventually, I moved to the Midwest, became more concerned about bathing suits, and let the down-the-shore tradition erode.

Reading the New York article, a wave of regret hit me. Who the heck cares about my dimpled thighs? I’ve got to find a way to get back soon.

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